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The Right Note: Four Things That Will Make You Scratch Your Head

by Mark Kelly July 13, 2017 at 1:45 pm 0

Mark KellyThe Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Outgoing Arlington County Board chair Jay Fisette says Arlington should be a city, not a county. From a practical standpoint, it would be a distinction without a difference. Having the word “county” in our name does not give us some massive inferiority complex.

The only explanation for Fisette’s musing is a political one. If Arlington became a city, the Democrats would almost certainly move all of the city council elections to November of presidential election years to give Republicans or independents the worst chance possible of winning.

Lest you think this is political paranoia, remember that outgoing Democrats on the Alexandria city council voted in 2009 to move their elections from the spring to November after losing seats.

There is further evidence that leaving office is making Fisette a little more politically honest. In his recent State of the County address, Fisette said current Arlington Public Schools’ spending growth “is not going to be sustainable” and further made the point that “we need to reduce per-student costs.”

We spend roughly $22,000 for every child enrolled in APS now, but calling that spending into question is politically treacherous territory in Arlington.

Speaking of APS, Superintendent Murphy received an early contract extension from the School Board just as he did in 2014. The 3 to 2 vote came a full year before his current deal expired.

James Lander, who had voted against the early extension three years ago saying it might set a bad precedent, cast the deciding vote in favor of the extension this time around. While Murphy surely will not turn down the pay increase, the split vote looks to the casual observer to be a vote of “no confidence.”

In the future, if 40 percent of the Board is not ready to grant an extension early, the Board should either stick it back in the drawer or work harder to find unanimity.

Four years ago, Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s business dealings were called into question during his campaign. In the last week, we learned that the Governor’s former company GreenTech Automotive is being required to repay $6.4 million of public funds to the state of Mississippi, funds that McAuliffe helped secure while with GreenTech.

Fortunately for Virginia taxpayers, McAuliffe’s application for such assistance here was denied because of concerns about whether the company was a legitimate venture. The legitimacy of the company aside, this incident is a reminder of the danger inherent in handing out taxpayer dollars for economic development.

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